LOGAN SQUARE — After years of work, Logan Square’s neighborhood-funded mental health center is almost ready to open.
The LoSAH Center of Hope at 3557 W. Armitage Ave., which has been in the works since 2018, opened in late January, officials said during a recent tour of the store. Construction is underway, with the interior walls getting a new coat of gold paint, and the floors, doors and appliances being installed next.
LoSAH — short for Logan Square, Avondale and Hermosa — offers bilingual, accessible mental health services to residents in the three neighborhoods, regardless of insurance. It will be known as the Esperanza Center in Spanish.
The center provides a full range of services, including individual therapy, couple and family therapy, group therapy, psychiatry and case management with a focus on early intervention and prevention, leaders said.
“This center is something that we need, and we don’t really have this kind of resources,” said Veronica Perez, the director of operations and a resident of Hermosa. “This center is going to alleviate a lot of the gaps that this community has suffered from.”
The center will have a community and conference room for public events and meetings, an art therapy and meditation room, an outdoor sensory garden and nine therapy offices, said Angela Sedeño, executive director and CEO of Expanded Mental Health Services of Chicago, the service provider. for the center.
Free workshops and community resources such as mental health first aid, art therapy classes and more will also be offered to the public in the community room, which will be decorated with art, bright colors and possibly a mural , executives said.
The facility was funded through a property tax increase approved in 2018. Tax funds will initially cover 100 percent of the clinic’s expenses, and additional revenue over time will help the center expand and provide more programs, Sedeño said.
“Public clinics were designed for people with severe mental illnesses, but they are not designed for everyday people who have everyday problems,” said Sedeño. “I think we all learned how to navigate the mental health system is difficult, so this is also a service we can provide: just helping people understand where you can go, how to choose a therapist, how to know when. Your child has need therapy?”
Center leaders are hiring clinicians and other staff who are receiving training at the Kedzie Center in Irving Park, the city’s first community-funded mental health clinic, which is run by the same provider, Sedeño said.
LoSAH will start with five therapists and hopes to grow to eight by spring, Sedeño said.
Officials anticipate serving more than 400 clients and the people they help each year once the center is fully equipped and operational, they said. The center also serves another 2,400 neighbors through community programs. By comparison, the Kedzie Center sees about 350 clients a year, Sedeño said.
“We can’t wait to open the doors”
The organization that culminated in LoSAH dates back to 2012, when Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed half of the 12 mental health clinics run by the city. Among those that closed was the Logan Square clinic, 2354 N. Milwaukee Ave., now home to Easy Does It.
The closure sparked protests and a city hearing. Many neighbors were furious when the facility was replaced with a gourmet mac and cheese restaurant and a 4 a.m. bar, moves that would define the gentrification struggle in Logan Square for many years.
Volunteers sprung into action in 2018, gathering thousands of signatures to open a community-funded mental health clinic in Logan Square, Hermosa or Avondale.
Their efforts—led by the Chicago Coalition to Save Our Mental Health Services—led to a binding referendum on the 2018 city ballot asking residents whether they would support a tax increase on the property to open the clinic.
The referendum won overwhelming support from North West voters. The property tax increase of .025 percent — about $4 for every $1,000 homeowners pay in property taxes — took effect in 2020. A board of commissioners is was formed to oversee the creation of the center.
The opening is particularly significant against the backdrop of rapid gentrification in the area, downtown leaders said.
Rapid redevelopment and displacement is radically changing the character and demographics of Humboldt Park, Logan Square, Hermosa and Avondale, making mental health therapy even more pressing, Perez said.
“This is a community that has been through a lot, and there are a lot of changes here,” Perez said. “Change is hard for anyone.”
Ald. Jessie Fuentes (26th) cited some of those lingering concerns last month when she refused to lift a liquor ban to allow a taproom to open in the corner of the building.
Neighbors and members of the mental health center worried about how the taproom would affect gentrification, and said it would go against the mental health center’s mission of establishing a safe haven for residents, including those who struggle with alcoholism or substance abuse.
“I believe that maintaining the liquor moratorium here is essential to ensure that we prioritize the peace, well-being and safety of those who work and seek treatment at the nearby mental health center,” Fuentes wrote in a letter to the components.
RELATED: Logan Square’s liquor ban prevents Taproom from opening on West Armitage Avenue
LoSAH will be the first business to open in the building at 3545-3559 W. Armitage Ave., a recently remodeled industrial-style property with six storefronts, said Joe Padorr of Seneca Real Estate Group, the property’s broker.
The center broke ground in August after looking for the right place for more than a year, its managers said.
The 5,000-square-foot warehouse was chosen because of its optimal location on the border of Logan Square and Hermosa, street parking and easy access to Armitage No.
Construction is expected to wrap up in early January, and a grand opening celebration is in the works, officials said.
Despite the challenges of finding the right space in the middle of a pandemic, the commissioners who moved away and losing the member Sister Diane Collins, who died earlier this year, the council has not stopped its mission, said Milka Ramírez , commissioner and chairman of the program.
“In the years that we have been together since 2019, we have canceled only one meeting due to lack of quorum, so it shows how committed these commissioners are,” said Ramírez.
Their collaborative model is in line with the center’s community-based approach to mental well-being, Ramírez said. Before the opening, commissioners gathered community input to guide decisions about construction, including the center’s name and golden walls, Ramírez said.
As LoSAH leaders prepare for its debut, they hope it can become a community space and not just a mental health clinic, Ramírez said.
“We are looking forward to opening doors for our communities, and we truly believe this will be an opportunity for the community to come together, heal and for further transformation,” he said.
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